New Jersey Little League Has the Perfect Remedy for Combative Parents

Cpl. Nick Dunn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to youth sports, there’s nothing worse than those know-it-all parents who try to correct an umpire or coach. You see them in every sport, and the unnecessary drama that these parents create embarrasses their kids, and they become a laughingstock to other families.


But one Little League program in New Jersey has found a genius solution to the problem of combative parents and spectators. Deptford Township Little League has implemented a new rule this year after argumentative spectators had gotten so bad that two volunteer umpires quit.

“Now league officials say if you fight with the umps, you could find yourself making the calls,” reports WPVI.

League President Don Bozzuffi said that the disputed calls and ensuing arguments follow a typical pattern.

“They think that the call was bad, which always amazes me that they can see a strike better over there than the umpire can one foot in back of them,” Bozzuffi told WPVI. Enough arguments have gotten out of hand that umpires have quit rather than put up with the combative spectators.

“They’re coming here, they’re being abused, they don’t need that,” said Bozzuffi. “So they’re walking away.”

Under the new rules, argumentative parents or spectators must serve as an umpire for three games or face a year-long ban from the fields.

“I want to see them squirm,” Bozzuffi told CBS News. “I want to see them make that call, and maybe they’ll see it’s not easy as it looks.”

Bozzuffi prefers to think of the new rule as an “enlightenment” rather than a punishment, and some parents agree.


“It’s sort of natural to say, ‘Buddy if you could do a better job, come on down here and do it, or don’t make any comments about the way I do it,'” Mac Barnes, a dad who has also worked as an umpire, said.

Recommended: One of College Football’s Greatest Mascot Traditions Opens a New Chapter This Weekend

The rule change has also created an unexpected benefit. Bozzuffi says that five parents have reached out to him about becoming umpires.

Naturally, the problem with combative parents isn’t just an issue in New Jersey. Back in 2019, umpires in the San Antonio District 19 Little League published a letter to parents explaining the issues that umpires face.

“We’re learning more and more every day the reasons why sports, all sports, are experiencing problems getting umpires or officials into their programs,” the umpires wrote. “One of the main reasons, sportsmanship. Not just from the managers/coaches or players, but parents too.”

The umpires cited a 2019 survey from the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) that found:

  • 13% of officials have been assaulted
  • 47% have feared for their life
  • 57% have broken up fights
  • 64% have ejected players, managers, coaches, or parents
  • 80% quit before their third year.

Another survey from NASO concluded that “about 40% of officials believe that parents cause the most problems with sportsmanship” and that 57% of officials believe that sportsmanship is getting worse.


“So, the next time you’re watching your child, family members, or friend playing at your local league, remember: Umpires are human too,” the letter from the umpires continues. “We make mistakes but a good umpire will do everything in their power to get it right. We know that when there’s a close play, we’re going to make half the people happy and not the other half. In the end, we want to get the call right.”

With these trends in sportsmanship, Bozzuffi and Deptford Township Little League may well be onto something. Forcing these combative parents and spectators to put themselves in the shoes of an umpire for a few games might help them realize that umpires are fallible people just like the parents are. And maybe it’ll lead to some change in spectator behavior.


Trending on PJ Media Videos

Join the conversation as a VIP Member